Science of Rowing interview

GRowingBODIES spoke with Will Ruth of the Science of Rowing collaboration about our BJSM Epidemiology of Rowing injury and illness over two Olympiads research project. You can listen to the interview online.

The Science of Rowing is a resource for coaches and rowers of all levels. Each month, Will and co-authors, Blake Gourley and Joe DeLeo read across dozens of academic journals for rowing-relevant research, deliver summaries and takeaways from the most relevant articles, and discuss practical applications via audio roundtables, and supporting bonus content.

Subscriptions to the Science of Rowing in November are being donated to “A Most Beautiful Thing” Inclusion (AMBTI) Fund. This is a new organization created in partnership with the George Pocock Rowing Foundation and Arshay Cooper to support education, scholarship, and mentorship programs to get more kids rowing on the water, focusing on non-traditional communities and communities of color where youth face barriers to participation in the sport.

This was a great opportunity for us to collaborate with the @ScienceofRowing to get more @GRowingBODIES into rowing and to keep them rowing injury free!

Doc Doc Goose podcast

Want to know more about injuries and illness in elite rowing?  What injuries cost the most training time?  How common is illness?  How many training days does back or rib pain cost a rower?

Dr Lari has discussed the findings of the recent British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) article on the epidemiology of injury and illness in Australian rowers of two Olympiads with the crew at Doc, Doc, Goose.

Dr Rod Siegel (Sports Scientist), Dr Alice MacNamara (Sport & Exercise Medicine Doctor) and Bill Tait (Olympic Rowing Coach) have a fantastic rowing, science and medicine podcast and we explore the research project, the findings and what it all means for rowers and coaches in non technical language.

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Find it at:

Yoga is GREAT for GRowingBODIES

Youth often begin rowing right when they start to grow. Girls often have their major growth spurt from 12-14 years and boys from 14-16 years.  Growing results in a loss of relative flexibility. Imagine how much tighter the hamstring muscle, running down the back of the thigh, becomes as a young boy grows 15cm in height over a 12 month period! Growth also results in a reduction in relative strength and young athletes often struggle to gain movement movement control of a growing body that is changing rapidly.  Often boys gain regain relative strength a little quicker than girls and this is likely due to the hormonal changes that occur with growth and puberty.

Yoga has a great mix of benefits that can benefits the growing rower;

  1. long hold stretches that are especially focused around the hips
  2. holding of poses that require trunk control and hip & shoulder girdle strength
  3. meditation and focus on breath that can assist with achieving a state of calm during a difficult period of body changes

Dog pose is a perfect example of an exercise of specific benefit to rowers.  The position that the rower gets into is not too different from the rock-over position required just after the finish of the drive.  Without hamstring length the rower will collapse into a poor pelvic posture at the end of the drive or may not be able to tilt the pelvis to upright during rock-over resulting in a position of a less upright pelvis coming into the catch.

Reduced ability to control the pelvis has been linked to the development of low back pain in rowers and should be a major focus for injury prevention in the young developing rower.

Increasing training load does not always increase performance!

In Australia, at this time of year, National Championships have just been completed and underage athletes are waiting anxiously to see if they get invited to National Team trials to make the U19, U21 and U23 teams.

For the athletes that have performed well, coaches are planning what training load they will complete between now and trials in approximately 3 weeks time with both coach and athlete aiming for the same outcome – a place on a National Team.

Many athletes end up rowing more than they ever have over this period of time.  In some ways it makes sense to row more as technical faults can be worked on, the rest of the squad is resting and there can be more focus on individual gain.  Unfortunately, this ends up resulting in athletes having a ‘dip’ in load over Nationals (fewer kilometres even though intensity is high, results in a reduction in load) followed by a steep increase in load and this is associated with increased injury and illness risk.

What is really interesting is that the risk for injury and illness often lags 2-3 weeks behind the increased load period.  This means that if an athlete makes a team, they train on and often become injured or ill 2-3 weeks after selection.


Coaches have done a great job to get their rower to perform at Nationals to a high standard.  This means that their load has been managed well throughout the rowing season to reduce their injury risk and to perform optimally at the right time of the season.  The gains that can be made by increasing load over a 3 week post-nationals period are small but the risk is high.

Returning the athlete to the load that they were managing as normal training in the month leading up to National Championships is ideal.  Even if a small ‘dip’ in load has happened over Nationals, a return to the training load the athlete was completing 2-3 weeks prior is usually quite safe.  Prescribing a training load that is greater than the athlete has been exposed to before should be avoided.

Depending on the aim of trials.  Coaches may find greater benefit by having athletes row in combinations that they need to get used to to make a National Team crew.  Coaches need to remember that load needs to be carefully considered when changing crews that rowers usually train in.  For instance, if a rower usually trains in an 8+ but wants practice in a 2- for the benefit of making a crew, coaches need to consider that 20km in an 8+ is a much lower load than 20km in a 2- and accommodate both training kilometres and training effort to ensure that a rower is not over trained or exposed to a greater load than they have previously accommodated to.

GRowingBODIES wishes all athletes and coaches GOOD HEALTH AND FAST ROWING!  This is exciting time for coaches and athletes that have had success from their programs – and now is the time to keep doing the things that have worked and consolidate performances rather than push too hard and have to deal with injury or illness as a consequence.